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ADA Compliance

ADA stands for Americans with Disabilities Act. The Americans with Disabilities Act is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all other places open to the general public, including digital assets such as websites and applications.

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What is the ADA?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is landmark legislation that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities, aiming to facilitate equality in all areas of public life.

This includes the Internet, as enterprises with websites are compelled to “open their doors” to the large portion of impaired persons. The code of regulations was enacted into U.S. law in 1990 by President George H. W. Bush.

The ADA was the direct result of years of effort of the disability civil rights community. Its legal framework can be traced back to Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act, prohibiting discrimination of disabled recipients of federal funds.

It also builds on the 1964 Civil Rights Bill to widen non-discriminatory laws and compensate impaired individuals who face inaccessible goods, services, employment opportunities, or public accommodations and activities.

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Auto AI functions

Users with disabilities can create the optimum browsing experience for their needs using EqualWeb’s Auto AI Accessibility Widget. By simply toggling buttons on and off in the menus, users with impairments can navigate the website in a friendly and accessible manner, tailored to each specific need. The powerful Auto AI functions meet any disability type, from dyslexia to motor and audio impairments. The Auto AI offers a rich and easy-to-use interface comprising a total of 32 functions.

Learn more about AUTO AI ADA Compliance

What do you need to know about ADA compliance?

While the language of the law specifies physical spaces, as it was penned before the Internet even existed (the first website went up in 1991), it clearly invokes principles of accessibility, not narrow guidelines.

This is why digital accessibility-related lawsuits have been surging in recent years, alongside claims settled privately.

Federal courts have demonstrated a favorable position toward the inclusive interpretation of the ADA (more on that anon), putting businesses and organizations with web assets at risk of liability.

Bottom line
: ADA compliance requires public and private enterprises to remediate their websites so that the significant population of disabled persons can gain access to products and services just like everybody else.

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Who needs to follow ADA requirements?

Now that you know the meaning of ADA compliance, you’re probably wondering whether it applies to you. Organizations that need to adhere to ADA requirements include state and local government agencies, private employers with 15 or more employees, and businesses that operate for the benefit of the public.

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Is ADA compliance mandatory for websites?

It’s important to note that it is not 100% clear whether or not ADA laws will affect a particular website. However, more and more states are adopting their own accessibility laws and there has been an upsurge in accessibility litigation in recent years. Without clearly defined regulations to follow, it might not be worth it for companies, small and mid-size businesses included, to gamble on the judicial ruling in their favor. The best measure for accessibility compliance offered is WCAG 2.0 Level AA guidelines, which we will discuss in more detail further below.

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Why is ADA Title III relevant to you?

Title III of the ADA deals with non-discriminatory rules applied to the private sector and nonprofit organizations. It stipulates physical “places of public accommodations and commercial facilities.”

However, the revised Title III Regulation of January 17, 2017, has made it crystal clear that the law applies to the web as well. The Title notes: “…the Department [of Justice] has taken the position that Title III covers access to Web sites of public accommodations.” Furthermore: “The Department has issued guidance on the ADA as applied to the Web sites of public entities, which includes the availability of standards for Web site accessibility.”

Indeed, the DOJ has left this area somewhat equivocal—“The Department did not issue proposed regulations... and thus is unable to issue specific regulatory language on Web site accessibility at this time”—but recent developments suggest that companies should engage in preliminary protection against lawsuits and strive for ADA compliance.

ADA history: Websites integrated with brick-and-mortar stores

Suit claims filed in federal courts have grown exponentially since 2018, with 10,982 ADA Title III cases filed in 2020. The trend only continued to grow in early 2021 (according to a Seyfarth report).

The precedent for web accessibility-related claims was set in 2006 with National Federation of Blind v. Target Corp., 452 F. Supp. 2d 946 (N.D. Cal. 2006). The plaintiff sued national retail chain Target for not providing accessibility on its website to the blind.

The case tested Title III of the ADA, as Target argued that it applies to physical spaces only. But the Superior Court of California disagreed. It held that there was a sufficient “nexus” (a connection linking two or more things) between Target’s physical and online services. The court concluded that many of the website benefits were services “heavily integrated with the brick-and-mortar stores” and therefore should be accessible as required by Title III.

Target and the National Federation of the Blind struck a civil action settlement in August 2008.

In the years to follow, this ruling expanded in its interpretations as more companies learned that while the ADA does not stipulate specific web accessibility standards, courts have ruled that the responsibility rests on them to provide access to the disabled, frequently referring to the independent Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) as the conforming standard of ADA compliance.

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I fall under the SMB category, am I protected?

Small and midsize businesses are not immune to ADA Title III lawsuits. While high-profile cases draw most attention from the press, a majority of claims are actually filed against SMBs.

A court ruling in 2019 handed a victory to a blind man, Guillermo Robles, who sued Domino’s Pizza after he was unable to order food on the pizza giant’s website and mobile app, despite using screen-reading software.

The decision led to an explosion of suits and claims against all types of businesses with digital assets that did not comply with Title III.

 With 10 federal class action lawsuits filed each day since 2020—and no signs of slowing down—small businesses are being targeted more often than before.

Most cases are filed in New York, Florida and California; however, targeted businesses are listed from all over the U.S.

 Around 77% of suits in 2021 involved e-commerce websites, as industries of retail, banking/financial, food service, entertainment and leisure, travel and hospitality, and others have come under the scrutiny of lawyers and plaintiffs.

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ADA compliance for Title I & Title II

Title I

Title I of the ADA ensures non-discriminatory employment rules, prohibiting discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities in various aspects of employment. This title applies to organizations with 15 or more employees, including state and local governments. While there have been relatively few web accessibility-related lawsuits filed under Title I so far.

Title II

Title II of the ADA extends non-discriminatory rules to state and local government services and programs. It aims to facilitate access and protection for individuals with disabilities. This title applies to all services and activities offered by public entities. Built upon Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Title II ensures accessibility in government agencies at the federal, state, and local levels. The goal is to enable individuals with disabilities to benefit from public sector services and activities, promoting inclusivity for all citizens.

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How do I know if my website is ADA compliant?

There is no guaranteed legal test to determine absolute ADA compliance for your website. The ADA regulations themselves are broad and do not provide specific technical requirements.

However, testing or assessing your website is the first step to knowing if you’re on the right track for ADA compliance. We will discuss this in further detail below, but WCAG conformance, particularly Level AA of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) set by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), is the best guideline for testing a website for ADA compliance.

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What is the ADA compliance standard?

A cloud of ambiguity shrouds this issue. ADA Title III does not articulate specific web accessibility standards, though it does note that Congress will thoroughly address this issue in the future.

Nevertheless, Title III does refer to the DOJ’s updated guidance from 2003.

The guidance stipulates two resources that websites should adhere to:

  1. Section 508 Standards
  2. Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)


Section 508 is an updated revision of 1973’s Rehabilitation Act, defining and including web accessibility terms. The section stipulates the more comprehensive resource, the WCAG, developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), as the standard to become ADA compliant.

As of today, WCAG 2.0 Level AA meets the required accessibility standards for websites, though the latest WCAG 2.2 Level AA would increase chances of meeting full ADA compliance, ensuring robust liability protection.

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How to test your website for ADA compliance?

Widely recognized as the best indicator of website accessibility under the ADA, various online tools can check your website for WCAG conformance. These tools can identify potential accessibility issues like missing alt text for images or insufficient color contrast.

While helpful for a quick initial check, they typically only assess one page at a time and may not catch everything. EqualWeb’s Monitor or Crawler software can scan an entire website, even behind login pages and dashboard accounts. The alternative would be a thorough manual audit conducted by a web accessibility professional as an ideal comprehensive assessment.

This involves reviewing each page of your website against WCAG criteria to identify and address accessibility barriers. However, they may be a very costly route of assessment, which is why auditing your website with the EqualWeb accessibility enhancement tools for ADA compliance is the best cost-effective solution in the market.

EqualWeb can also integrate both automated (AI-powered) web accessibility testing and manual auditing by an accessibility expert, which is the safest and surest path for validation of a website against WCAG 2.0 Level AA standards. Furthermore, involving users with disabilities in testing a website can identify areas where automated tools and manual audits might miss the mark. For more information, please visit our web accessibility auditing page.

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How to achieve ADA compliance?

Essentially there are two ways to make a website accessible and ADA compliant: automatically or manually. You can search for free overlays that are implemented on the website and remediate it automatically. However, these overlays are hardly professional and typically cause even greater accessibility issues on the website. Moreover, they are not guaranteed to protect a website from an ADA-related lawsuit. Even the professional AI-powered overlays that were developed over the course of years by web accessibility experts cannot elevate a website to meet all WCAG guidelines and ADA standards. This is why manual remediation is a must for finetuning a website to high accessibility levels.

But manual remediation is costly, time-consuming, and energy-sapping. So what can you do? Enter the EqualWeb ADA Managed Compliance solution: a “hybrid” and one-of-a-kind solution in the web accessibility field that combines periodic scanning of the website, an AI-powered widget for 24/7 remediation without interfering with the original code, and customized remediation by in-house experts to compliment the automated work and fill in all the holes.

These three essential elements for high-level, premium-quality accessibility are offered in affordable prices according to the specific needs and objective complexity level of the website. The EqualWeb growing clientele subscribed to the ADA Managed Compliance plan is a testament to the fact that this plan works and achieves ADA compliance. Learn more about it and contact an accessibility expert for more information.

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WCAG conformance is ADA compliance

As previously mentioned, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) lacks specific technical requirements for website accessibility, leaving room for interpretation. However, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) have emerged as the primary reference point for achieving accessibility within the framework of the ADA. Conformance with WCAG, particularly at Level AA, carries weight in legal contexts, providing evidence of a sincere effort toward inclusivity and defense against potential lawsuits. Furthermore, adhering to WCAG aligns with global standards, ensuring that websites meet best practices and offer an inclusive user experience.

Embracing WCAG principles addresses the core needs of users with disabilities, emphasizing Perceptibility, Operability, Understandability, and Robustness (POUR). This approach mitigates legal risks associated with accessibility lawsuits. Analogous to building codes for physical structures, the ADA mandates equal access without prescribing every technical detail, leaving WCAG to serve as the specific technical guidelines. Therefore, striving for WCAG conformance isn’t merely about legal compliance but about fostering usability and inclusivity for all website visitors.

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EqualWeb provides ADA compliance

The nuts and bolts of ADA compliance can be overwhelming. This is where the expertise of EqualWeb in the web accessibility and legal compliance fields becomes invaluable.

EqualWeb offers the best accessibility solutions in the market, tailored to small, medium and large businesses, including non-profit organizations, which will (a) open your goods and services to large swathes of the disabled population and (b) provide you with full legal compliance.

With a focus on making design decisions and incorporating the latest technologies, Equalweb has created an automated AI tool that allows for seamless integration into any website. This solution is designed as an easy-to-use platform that helps organizations and businesses meet government regulations while providing customers with an excellent user experience.

Our customers receive an Accessibility Statement and a Certificate of Performance as well, mitigating liability. EqualWeb guarantees ADA compliance.

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